Peering into the heart of the Milky Way

The European Space Agency’s Planck satellite and the internationally-operated Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) combined to produce a unique view across the plane of the Milky Way showing what ESA describes as bright pockets of “compact sources of submillimetre radiation: very cold, clumpy, dusty regions that may shed light on myriad topics all the way from how individual stars form to how the entire universe is structured.” APEX, located in the Chilean Andes, is a partnership between the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, the Onasala Space Observatory and the European Southern Observatory. The Planck spacecraft was built to study the cosmic microwave background radiation left over from the big bang.

“Planck and APEX are an ideal pairing,” ESA said in a release. “APEX is best at viewing small patches of sky in great detail while Planck data is ideal for studying areas of sky at the largest scales. It covers the entire sky – no mean feat. The two work together well, and offer a unique perspective on the sky.”

A view into the heart of the Milky Way as seen by the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite and the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment, or APEX. Click to view the entire image. Image: ESO/ATLASGAL consortium; ESA/Planck